SEATTLE — Lonnie Palm was able to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary, walk his daughter down the aisle and hold his newborn grandchild all because an organ donor gave him a second chance at life.
"I just had the most emotional feeling that I've ever had waking up from that surgery and knowing that I was going to be okay," said Palm.
That's why the organ recipient said the announcement about fallen Deputy Dominique "Dom" Calata, delivered by the Pierce County sheriff, was particularly moving.
"In a final selfless act he is going to be an organ donor," Sheriff Ed Troyer said during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
"It's sad he lost his life, but it's probably one of the most giving things that a human can do for another human," said Palm. "That's the way I feel. It's just a very emotional feeling."
Brian Shepard, the CEO of the United Network for Organ Sharing, said for the first time ever the United States had more than 41,000 organ transplants performed in a single year. That milestone was reached by the end of 2021. For Washington state, there were 793 transplants in 2021, a 9% increase over the previous year.
"It is a transformative event for those folks, restoring people who are terribly ill and really, in many cases, on the verge of death," said Shepard.
As for Palm, he received a heart transplant in 2020. Sometimes when he is running errands he will wear a shirt that reads, "Inside me beats the heart of another." He said that shirt is often an important conversation starter.
"Hopefully, I'm getting the word out," said Palm. "You know, if I can have one person sign up that wasn't before that maybe saves somebody's life, you know, that means the world to me."
Currently, there are more than 106,000 names on the national transplant waiting list. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, one donor can save eight lives.